by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center explores prime-time coverage of issues linked to higher education’s woes.
The movement to reform higher education is finally entering prime time. Although major news outlets have previously aired interviews and television segments about various aspects of higher education, the coverage seems to be reaching an all-new level.
Last month, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson announced a month-long series dedicated to answering the question “is college worth it?” In the ensuing weeks, Carlson discussed hot-button topics such as grade inflation, affirmative action, and towering student-loan debt—issues that those in the reform movement have long been debating. Interestingly, a few weeks later, NBC Nightly News decided to join the conversation with its own episode on a similar topic.
Higher education’s emergence as a staple of prime-time television, however, is the product of several decades’ worth of efforts by individuals and organizations to call attention to the flaws within the academy. A major event that first thrust academia’s discontents into the public eye occurred when William F. Buckley Jr. published his seminal book God and Man at Yale in 1951. The book shined a light on how academe had become the home of socialism.
Initially, Buckley’s efforts seemed to have little effect in the wider culture—having sparked a flame that seemingly faded into the background. But the problems Buckley pointed out did not go away; on the contrary, the sparks he lit started to spread as the situation in academia steadily worsened.